Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Institutions and Institutional Innovation for 21st century political economies

I have been thinking a lot about the classic conservative call for 'smaller' government.

I think this is also an outmoded view. While it was appropriate at one point, I think the aim should not be about 'quantity' or size, but 'quality' and appropriateness.

A 21st century society has many more layers of infrastructure than ever before, For one thing, the profit motive does not produce, steward, nor sustain public goods (and related commons). We live in a age where corporations have the rights of an individual but none of the responsibilities or even the allegiances to national values. Most worrying is the increasing undue influence of the large entities on the electoral processes. (All democracies require fundamental electoral reforms that would both constrain the influence on electoral process and harness the capacities of digital infrastructures entrench fundamental democratic processes).

Protective oversight of food, water, pharmaceuticals, aviation/transport, physical infrastructure, education, health require more than 'suitable' regulatory regimes but public servants knowledgeable and competent to be the guardians of public wellbeing.

The pace of scientific and technological change (and the corresponding emergence of increasing complexity and 'wicked problems') requires some fundamental institutional innovations to not simply remain ahead of the curve but to better harness the waves of change.

It is an increasing challenge to uphold important cultural values while being able to attain some level of cultural mastery to steward change toward the unfolding future.

It is good government that is necessary and it's size must correspond to both the increasing pace of change, the increase in the levels of infrastructure (agricultural - more appropriately term the bio-economy, manufacturing, civil, digital, cultural - and most important human capital - the true and only source and measure of a nation's wealth). A government has to be extensive and strong enough to foster and balance the increasing power of corporations and the new requisite infrastructures of wealth.